Arts·Canada's a Drag

How Filipina sensation Francheska Dynamites exploded to unlikely drag stardom in Lethbridge, Alberta

After immigrating to Canada in 2010, Beyoncé inspired this queen to step into formation.

After immigrating to Canada in 2010, Beyoncé inspired this queen to step into formation

Francheska Dynamites (Cody Kapcsos)

Francheska Dynamites is just one of the many fabulous subjects featured in Canada's a Drag, a docu-series from CBC Arts that showcases drag artists from across the true North strong and fierce. You can watch all three seasons here.​

When Francis Yutrago immigrated to Canada from the Philippines under the live-in caregiver program in 2010, he had no idea that it was the beginning of a journey that would ultimately lead him to stages across the country as his fierce, fabulous drag alter ego: Francheska Dynamites.

"People were asking...what is her name?" Francis recalls of his drag beginnings. "When I was in the Philippines, they used to tease me by changing my name from masculine to feminine. 'Oh, Francheska,' they said. So I was like, 'You know what? I'm going to use that name and make it Francheska Dynamites.'"

Series Producers: Mercedes Grundy and Peter Knegt
Episode Director: Gabriel Yee
Episode Additional Camera: Jeremy Pollock
Packaging Editor: Kiah Welsh
Titles Designer: Hope Little

"My drag persona came from Beyoncé," Francis says. "I loved listening to R&B music back in the Philippines. And then when I saw Beyoncé with the big hair the way she moved in that 'Crazy In Love' music video...I said, 'One day I'm going to perform like that.' So that was my first drag performance number."

Francheska lives in an unlikely spot for a burgeoning drag superstar: the historically Mormon Alberta community of Stirling. With a population of just under 1,000 people, Francheska typically takes the stage 30km down the road in Lethbridge, Alta. She is the first queen from Lethbridge to become a finalist of Alberta's Next Drag Superstar and is also the current Miss Fiesta Filipino Queen and Miss Dame of Progress. In 2018, she was crowned Miss Queen Philippines Canada.

If that doesn't sound like a busy enough schedule, Francis also works three jobs out of drag — in a fast food restaurant, a nursing home and janitorial services. This allows him to support his family back home, paying for his mother's medication and his brothers' tuition.

Francheska Dynamites (Darla Schick Woodley)

Thankfully, both Francis and Francheska have some support of their own. Seven years ago, Francis met his now-boyfriend Cody on an online dating site, and the two have been together ever since. Cody accompanies Francheska to her drag performances, which primarily take place within the Lethbridge LGBTQ community they both have come to call home.

"When you're in the community, you're performing [for] people who will just look at you like a star," Francheska says. "They treat you differently. All they see is the beauty in you. All you hear [are] beautiful words. And it feels great. After two hours of doing your hair and makeup, it pays off because there's people that you know are happy to see you, excited to see you. To see them happy and smiling — it makes me feel great."

There's about to be a lot of folks across Canada who you're about to make smile, Ms. Dynamites.  

Follow Francheska Dynamites on Instagram and meet the other kings, queens and in betweens in the third season of Canada's a Drag, streaming now on CBC Gem.

About the Author

Peter Knegt has worked for CBC Arts since 2016, writing the LGBTQ-culture column Queeries (winner of the 2019 Digital Publishing Award for best digital column in Canada) and spearheading the launch and production of series Canada's a Drag and interactive project Superqueeroes, both of which won 2020 Canadian Screen Awards. Beyond CBC, Knegt is also a stand-up comedian, the filmmaker of numerous short films and the author of the book About Canada: Queer Rights. You can follow him on Instagram and Twitter with the same obvious handle: @peterknegt.